TSF offers satellite phone lifeline to Haitians

Inmarsat-supplied satphones in use by Télécoms Sans Frontières in Haiti

Families who lost everything when Hurricane Matthew swept across Haiti last week are being offered a communications lifeline by Télécoms Sans Frontières (TSF).

Two teams in the devastated towns of Jérémie and Les Cayes have started humanitarian calling operations, enabling people to make free calls on IsatPhone Pro satellite phones to relatives and friends anywhere in the world, to let them know they are alive and to seek desperately needed assistance. In the first few days, nearly 550 victims of the hurricane were able to make contact with loved ones.

TSF is also supporting national relief efforts by setting up BGAN satellite communication links in departmental emergency operations centres, so critical data on damage assessment and priority needs can be shared. Aid agencies dealing with rising tensions in the aftermath of the storm have been equipped with IsatPhone Pro phones for security.

Trained volunteers

Immediately after Hurricane Matthew struck the island on 4 October, TSF-trained volunteers from the National Association of the Scouts of Haiti were collaborating with the National Emergency Operations Centre (COUN) and the Haitian Civil Protection body in the capital, Port-au-Prince.

“Faced with the scale of the disaster, and with the death toll steadily rising, TSF will continue its direct collaboration with the Scouts Association, as well as the Haitian Civil Protection body and the governmental operations centres,” said Alexander James Thomas, TSF Head of International Relations and Communication.

“A team from TSF’s operations hub in Mexico deployed last weekend with supplementary equipment and human resources to scale up the national response.”

Infrastructure destroyed

The category 4 storm is feared to have killed as many as 900 people on Haiti. Tens of thousands of homes were destroyed, along with essential infrastructure including the road bridge connecting the north and south of the island and terrestrial and mobile communication networks.

The United Nations has made an emergency appeal for nearly $120m (£97m) to provide lifesaving assistance and protection for 750,000 people now facing the risk of a cholera epidemic and famine, the hurricane having wiped out crops and food reserves.